“Don’t tell Mom.” = An e-mail from my sister.
“I know.” = My response.
We hadn’t done anything illegal (you’re shocked, I’m sure). We hadn’t broken anything or hidden any evidence, and we weren’t re-enacting the Christina Applegate movie. We simply decided to protect the woman who bore us from: news of the Return of the Thrush. It may not be grammatically correct to capitalize the name of the infection or to put “the” in front of it, but it feels appropriate. We just weren’t sure Mom could handle it, even though she’s dealt with much greater crises with one hand behind her back and the other one cooking a gourmet dinner. You could hear her teeth grind every time she asked, “Is it any better?” and a pained sigh every time I said, “No, not really.” And I might have thought she was overdoing it a bit, had I not discovered for myself that knowing that your daughter is in pain is a whole new kind of anguish.
My mom will never let me live down the day when I told her, “I am too apathetic.” Eight years old, I didn’t understand what she meant by needing to walk in someone else’s shoes, let alone the difference between empathy and apathy. Now I think that empathy isn’t a strong enough word to describe what I feel when I see Francesca’s white thrushy tongue or how I felt when she got her vaccines last week. She looked up at me in horror and screamed what could only be translated as a mix of “how could you?” and “do something about this!”
“She’s going to make me cry,” I told the nurse.
“It wouldn’t be the first time. We had a dad crying in the corner this morning. And a few months ago, I had a mom who sobbed more than her baby. I told her that next time she might want to bring some support. Guess who she brought.”
“Yes. And just by chance, I was the one who gave her baby the next round of vaccines. So then I had baby, Mom, and Grandma all in tears. I told her, ‘Honey, that’s not exactly what I meant by support.'”
Of course, I did tell my mom about the Thrush. That’s why I’m not so covert as to refrain from regaling you of it here. The problem is that no one but Mom can offer the mom-athy I’m describing. That, and the fact that she could tell I was hiding something.